Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago

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Finally, the opportunity to see one of Chicago's best-known dance exports--a troupe that's toured all over the country and outside it--in a mainstream theater: for two nights only, as part of the Spring Festival of Dance, Muntu brings its fascinatin' rhythms downtown. As usual the program, "Dances of the Diaspora," reveals a complex approach to issues of assimilation. Two pieces come directly from the motherland: South African Suite (with sections devoted to praising the ancestors, the initiation rites of young girls, and an Izulu women's flirtation dance) and the Senegalese dance Djon Dong Wolosodong. But Afrikan Swing--which features a five-piece jazz band and a performance by 72-year-old lindy hopper Norma Miller--is a dance from early-20th-century America, when the lindy hop was born out of Afro-Carribean movement at such establishments as the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem (in the 40s the ever more athletic and airborne lindy was adopted by whites and called the jitterbug). And artistic director Amaniyea Payne's Through Mandela's Eyes is a ferocious piece with poetic text that conveys the passionate wish for a unified Africa and for better treatment of blacks worldwide. A program this lively and varied, performed by Muntu's standout dancers and drummers, should really rock the decorous old Shubert. Wednesday and Thursday, May 10 and 11, at 7, 22 W. Monroe; $10-$25 (tickets for the performance and a fund-raising party on Wednesday are $100). Call 902-1500 for tickets, 431-2357 or 977-1710 for group sales, and 602-1135 for benefit info.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Kwabena Shabu.

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